The Heart of an Artist

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Ebb and Flow.

Artists wear their work like a second skin, and flinch when their art is not as cared for, particularly by someone important to them.  And when  their  art  is appreciated, they glow.

The Long-Awaited Honest-to-God Secret to Being Happy

Whether our medium is paper, paint, pixels, or measures of music, we wear our art wrapped around our hearts like no other professions. It is a part of us, and it’s important that that part be as nurtured as any other of us.

I’ve often been criticized for decisions I’ve made or methods  I’ve  tried  in  my  career  as  a  negotiator.  You know what? Fuck it. I don’t care what all the anal retentives say. I’ve just as often been handed  awards for my negotiation  work.  You  know  what?  Fuck  that,  too. (Unless  it  directly  saves  lives…that  I  care  a  bit  more about.)

The point  is, in my non-artistic  work,  it’s removed from  my  emotions,  from  my  identity,  from  my  self- worth. It’s funny that I’d think of it as separate from my identity because I have so often over the past decade or two put everything I had into my day job, and yet, it’s still not as up-close and personal as my identity as a writer. I am an amalgam of emotions and ideas, and my day job is more of just the latter, with no allowance for the former. (Angry female = out of control bitch; crying or compassionate female = out of control weakling.) I’m more of a whole person as a writer because I can indulge my creative and analytical side at once.

I’ve heard writers over the years complain (almost exclusively women)  that  their  significant  others  wouldn’t read  their  books,  wouldn’t  discuss  plots  except  to  tell them what they should be writing, and had no interest at all in their artistic/creative  world except for the income. Most of the male writers I know seem to get tons of loving support from their wives and girlfriends, who handle all the mundane and sometimes the business side of their lives to make time for the writer  to (gasp!) write. Their work is viewed as important and fulfilling whereas my female writer pals are more likely to have their work treated as a hobby or even as competition by their spouses. I realize it’s not that way in every case, but in the majority of what I’ve seen as a published writer for the past decade, this rule holds true.

Some writers have told me that it doesn’t matter to them that  their  husbands  never read their work. A few have told me that repeatedly. I don’t believe them. These aren’t  businesswomen  who  just  happen  to  be  putting their expertise  into a book as a different  venue  to  disseminate their ideas. These are writers with writers’ blood and writers’ hearts. There’s a difference in the writer who is an artist at heart and the businessperson  who’s simply writing a book.

I don’t believe them because it was too important  to me that the  people I loved appreciate my writing. They didn’t have to read every  word. They didn’t have to be fans of romance or science fiction or women’s action ad- venture or spiritual musings. But once in a great while, it would  have  made  my  heart  soar  to  hear  a kind  word about  my  writing,  to hear that they’d  actually  read the book and liked a plot point or a turn of a phrase or some- thing a character  did resonated with them or the ending made them cry or they laughed out loud while reading my book  in  a  public  place.  I  heard  all  those  things  from strangers, but  very,  very  rarely  from the  people  in my closest circles.

And that hurt. It hurt terribly that my ex liked to display my books publicly and proudly, but he’d never read them. Even when he claimed he was trying to be supportive of my writing and to like it, it still took eons to get him to read a 30-page critically acclaimed anthology story. I hate having to beg someone to be supportive of some- thing that means so much to me when they’re telling me how hard they’re trying to save our marriage. I learned in 1993 at  a  little  Mexican  restaurant  in  Niceville  that  I couldn’t excitedly discuss a potential plot, especially a suspense  novel  heavy  on  body  count.  One  little  “Who’d want to read that?!” stopped my plotting and my writing of that manuscript,  even though I’d already written 100 pages of it and had an editor in NYC who wanted to see it pronto. If my life partner hated it, why would anyone else care for it? Not that he was required  to love it, but surely he could have found something positive say other than, “Do you want me to lie to you?”

After I’d filed for divorce, he read more of my work than he did  during our entire marriage…and  proceeded to bludgeon me with it because he couldn’t separate fact from fiction in  a  book I’d written a decade before. His friends, with their little notes dropped to me, were best at reflecting  his  opinions  of  my  work  as  “useless”  and “pathetic.” It’s not that I didn’t already know how he felt about such  an  important  part  of  me,  but  since  they’d never read my books, I knew where their opinions came from.

My daughters are just the opposite. They’re everything I could hope for when it comes to loving support. Aislinn, while too  young to read my stories, has heard the plots on long car trips. Shannon has devoured my action- adventure novels,  loved  Dark Revelations, loved  Eye of the Serpent, helped me plot out Lilah’s story. She hasn’t read everything  I’ve written  but she “gets”  it. The evidence shines in her eyes when we talk.

By dredging this up now, I’m not even complaining about my ex.  Not anymore. Heaven knows, he (and his mom) has brought  more  local  readers to my blog and journals  than  anyone  else  in  the  geographical  area,  by sheer unhappy  word of mouth.  Ironic,  yes. So it’s not really a complaint against him anymore but rather a statement of what I need in future relationships.

I won’t repeat this aspect in a new relationship, either in a romantic relationship or with new platonic friends. If they don’t “get” my writing,  then they won’t “get” me, and I choose not to surround myself with people who are not encouraging  of my dreams  or accepting  of such  a huge part of who I am.